I literally hung on every word and I could not be more aligned on the beautiful text written. I give you an excerpt:
"Links golf is the original of the species. It is where golf began and the principals of the game were established. Down by the seaside in the wind and the rain and the dunes with the rest of the world blocked out.... It is where the real golfing purists retreats to when the time comes to restore the golfing soul.... It is where shot-making skills count more than information on yardage. Golf on linksland is a rare experience and one to be cherished by those privileged to play it."
I often wonder how expectations (and hope) impact ones judgement on things generally, not least golf courses. And whilst I always do my best to keep both of these in check I'm certain they do play a part in the overall evaluation. There's no doubt I arrived with high expectations and although I departed convinced this is a very fine (and different) links experience I'm ultimately and heartbreakingly sad to report it did not reach "world-class" status in my eyes.
I have nothing but admiration and respect for Ruddy and what he has created here at Brittas Bay, just north of Arklow on the East Coast of Ireland, and am reluctant to be critical of a course I've only played once, but you've got to call it as you see it.
The truth is there is tons of stuff to love about The European Club, a modern(ish) course having opened in 1993, and its many quirky traits. It's a superb golf course but it just doesn't quite turn the dial to the max, as I had hoped it might and is billed as doing.
One of the negatives I sometimes hear about this 20-hole layout (!) is with regards to the bunkers, however, I thought this was a strong point of the course. There are many of them and they are mostly wooden sleeper faced. I thought they had been done exceptionally well, fitted the terrain brilliantly and really brought the course to life; both visually and strategically. You will find some expertly placed in the fairways, others wickedly positioned to protect the greens and even one in the middle of the putting surface at the 14th!
The 125-yard long green at the 12th is also a popular talking point and again I absolutely loved this, not just because of its uniqueness but because it fits the hole so well.
Another controversial aspect of The European is the two extra holes. These are both par-threes and come at the optional 7a and 12a. I'm a huge advocate of golf courses utilising the land available, and whilst usually that would mean less holes, rather than trying to get to 18, I guess it works well the other way too and if there is extra land available then why not! I preferred 12a but both are cracking holes in their own right.
The very best of The European Club can be found between holes 11 and 16. There is no denying that these are truly great and epitomise everything that is said in the introduction to the course. My only regret is that there isn't more of these because they do set the highest bar. Holes 3 and 4 come close and the 8th is a beautifully crated par-four.
What I personally feel marks the course down from rubbing shoulders with the very best is essentially the four holes exiting and approaching the clubhouse. The 1st and 10th begin each nine whilst the 9th and 18th naturally return to base and as a quartet they just don't quite cut the mustard for me and fit what it says on the tin.
Would I recommend you play The European Club? Absolutely.
Is The European Club an excellent golf course? Absolutely.
Is it to my personal taste? Unfortunately not.
Could it be to yours? Absolutely.